DENVER (AP) – Gov. John Hickenlooper asked the Colorado Supreme Court on Wednesday to rule that he, not the state’s attorney general, has the final say on whether to sue the federal government.
Hickenlooper’s petition comes after he complained that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman should not have joined about two dozen other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency over new air pollution rules without his authorization.
Coffman said the rules are an illegal overreach. The governor supports the rules and is trying to implement them.
Jacki Cooper Melmed, chief legal counsel to the governor, said Coffman has filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits without the support of or collaboration with her clients. “This raises serious questions about the use of state dollars and the attorney-client relationship between the governor, state agencies and the attorney general,” Melmed said.
She added that the governor’s decision to petition the state’s high court was not based on the legal merits of the lawsuits, but rather on the function of the state’s executive branch. Hickenlooper is asking the Supreme Court to force Coffman to withdraw lawsuits against the federal government that were filed without his permission.
The petition says that this year, Coffman has “unilaterally enmeshed our state in ideologically charged lawsuits against the federal government.”
Those lawsuits include one in Wyoming over fracking rules, one in North Dakota over clean water rules and the latest in Washington, D.C., over the EPA’s air pollution rules.
Coffman has said she has the right to file lawsuits on behalf of the state. Her spokesman said the AG’s office is reviewing Hickenlooper’s petition.
Coffman “remains confident the court will continue to affirm her independent authority as an elected constitutional officer,” spokesman Roger Hudson said Wednesday night.
The petition widens the rift between the Democratic governor and the Republican attorney general over the EPA rules for power plant pollution, called the Clean Power Plan.
Hickenlooper has said the lawsuit over the new air pollution rules will create uncertainty and make it difficult for the industry to plan cost-effective ways to cut pollution. Coffman says the lawsuit does not keep Hickenlooper from preparing to implement the regulations in the event the lawsuit fails.
Colorado’s governor and attorney general are elected independently, and it’s not unusual for them to be from opposing parties.
– By THOMAS PEIPERT, Associated Press
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